Bradley Kim isn’t coming out to the world as gay for himself.
As the Air Force football player has privately shared his true self with his teammates and coaches over the last year, he’s done so to finally stop his internal feelings that he has to pretend like he’s someone else.
That was for him.
Now he’s sharing his story publicly to help others. Once a star high school football player in Washington, Kim knows the internal torment so many other young gay athletes, and other gay youth, struggle with every day.
“The biggest reason I want to share this is to be able to reach people who are in similar situations struggling with the same things I have struggled with,” he told Outsports last night as he sat next to one of his best friends, finally feeling free. “I want to be that example for kids that you can be gay, you can pursue your dreams, and you can have an athletic career.
“My dreams got me to a D1 football program. I want to be there for people who don’t feel like they have anyone there for them, because I was that kid growing up in high school.”
All of that culminated this morning in his big step out of the closet with this post he shared on Instagram, quoting the Bible and sharing the incredible acceptance he has received:
Earlier in the day, Kim, a safety with the Air Force Falcons, came out to the other defensive backs on the team. He said they gave him a standing ovation. Going into that conversation, he had already told his parents, various former teammates from high school, several teammates at Air Force, various people at the Air Force Academy not affiliated with the football program, and various coaches with the team. Every one of them, including head coach Troy Calhoun, had a reaction of full-fledged support.
“They tell me they appreciate the fact that I felt confident enough, and they meant enough, for me to tell them,” he said.
Kim said their reactions, along with the supportive environment of Air Force, left him with no fear or anxiety going into his conversations with his teammates, or posting his message on Instagram.
‘’I’ve spent too many years worrying what other people will think and letting it affect what I do in my daily life. And I’m kind of done with that. It doesn’t affect my ability to play football. It doesn’t affect my ability to serve my country. No one cares here. We all go through the same thing, we all go through basic training. What we go through going through the Academy goes way deeper than worrying about what someone will think.”
Kim, who is half-Korean and half-German, also credits his growing network of gay athletes for his courage. He’s spoken to various athletes who have come out to their teams, including other college football players, and he said he hasn’t heard “a negative story yet.”
He in particular credits Conner Mertens, the former Willamette Univ. football player, for helping guide him through this coming-out process.
“The positive reaction Conner got from his team is probably the biggest reason I’m able to come out to my team,” Kim said of Mertens and his story. “He’s just a genuine person. He’ll reach out just to make sure I’m doing OK. Just the type of person Conner is helped me a lot.”
Kim was a three-year starter, senior captain and All-Conference football player for Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash., about 20 miles east of Seattle. He was also a three-time state qualifier in track and field. Kim said he knew he was gay in high school, but he simply couldn’t accept it, and he didn’t feel he could reveal it to anyone at the time. He is a devout Christian, even quoting a Bible verse in his coming-out message.
Skyline High School was the same high school where Alejandro Graterol played baseball and came out to his team. Graterol was one of the first people Kim contacted for support as he began the journey to accept himself. He said college soccer player Sam Johnson also had a big impact on him.
Last season Kim wasn’t able to play football for Air Force due to a shoulder injury he suffered in basic training. He had surgery to repair his shoulder last autumn.
A sophomore, Kim has a few years left at the Air Force Academy, then he’ll be serving in the military. Once his service to the United States is complete, he hopes to pursue his passion for music. He already plays the guitar and ukulele and writes his own music.